A new report released last month by Western Resources Advocates, entitled “Protecting the West: How Climate and Clean Energy Policies Can Safeguard Water” takes a look at the future of water resource management in the Southwest based on energy demand and water supply. The Western Resource Advocates are a nonprofit organization with a focus on environmental law and policy. The organization’s recent report is intended to shed some light on the relationship between water and energy in the arid interior of the US, with an emphasis on how demand and use of one resource affects the other. The water-energy relationship is one that all of us in the water efficiency industry are painfully aware of, but, in this case, familiarity of the subject matter only enhances the benefits in reviewing the Western Resource Advocates report.
Some highlights to get you started (the entire report can be reviewed in PDF format here:
1. While the oil and gas industry imposes a heavy burden on the West’s water resources (for the 10 states of the Rocky Mountain Oil and Gas Supply Region, the US Department of Energy projects that water consumed for conventional oil and gas production will increase from approximately 500 MGD in 2005 to 700 MGD in 2030), clean renewable sources of energy, and energy efficiency can provide important water savings; both wind and solar use virtually no water during operation, while generating power from methane gas captured at landfills or wastewater treatment plants consumes no water.
2. The West has developed around limited water supplies, but providing clean, safe, drinkable water often requires substantial amounts of energy. Many of the West’s proposed new supplies—except reuse and additional conservation—will be more energy-intensive.
3. Essential to the current and future prosperity of the West are the following:
a. Adopting comprehensive, national climate and clean-energy legislation
b. Implementing energy-efficiency measures in homes, businesses, and the industrial sector
c. Expanding the region’s reliance on carbon- and water-efficient sources of energy
d. Accelerating efforts to improve urban water conservation
e. Expanding use of recycled water
f. Advancing new, emerging technologies that optimize reductions in carbon emissions and water use
g. Working collaboratively to move away from the most polluting, water-intensive resources
So what do you think? Should there be more of a push to balance water and energy use in current and future projects along the lines of solar-powered water pumps or reclaimed water for cooling towers? What about a modified evaluation process for federal projects that would consider greenhouse gas emissions and encourage the use of alternative energy supply sources? Is there too much emphasis on energy cost without similar attention paid to little energy demands and its associated water costs?